Should Oval School have a new name when it becomes an Academy?

On Thursday 19th May the IEB  (the body that has replaced the previous governors) of Oval School held 2 evening meetings for teachers and for parents about their proposals to invite ARK Schools to take over running of the school from September 2011. At the meeting parents heard from John Philipson, the Chair of IEB, explaining the board’s reasons for choosing ARK.  He explained the board had been sceptical about Academies but had come around to appreciate what ARK Schools could do to improve Oval School.

It was clear from his presentation that the board had considered working with other Croydon Schools but there was a lack of strong headteachers and/or existing excellent schools having the spare capacity to help others.  It is a clear indictment of last 5 years of Conservative Council Education Policy in Croydon that there wasn’t a “Croydon Solution” available to resolve the problems Oval School faced.

After John Phillipson explanation we received a presentation from ARK about the achievements they have done with others schools across London, and what their plans are for Oval. They mentioned that all children starting in September 2011 will get a free school uniform. Ark School places a lot of emphasis on teacher training and there are likely to be around 10 days set aside for this, compared to the normal five. It also meant the school was likely to start a week later or so in September than the original start dates that have been publicised.

We then heard from Venessa Willms, the Headteacher of Kings Solomon’s School in Westminster who will oversee Oval School on behalf of Ark. Ark hope to appoint a new headteacher for the school within the next few days. As well as explaining the Ark’s philosophy and teaching methods, she also mentions that ARK are considering renaming the school to ARK Bayes Academy. ARK schools place an emphasis on basic skills such as reading and Maths, and the name Bayes is in honour of 18th Century Mathematician Thomas Bayes, who is famous for the Bayes Theorem.

It is clear that some parents at the meeting were keen to change the name of Oval School as a break from the past, but if ARK is to show that this school is rooted in the Addiscombe and East Croydon communities, then keeping Oval in the title is an an acknowledgement of all the successes of Oval School, and the 1000 of pupils who have have received wonderful education there, over the last 125 years. It would be a sad day that more than 125 years of history and identity with a local area should be swept away and replaced with the name of a mathematician who never visited Croydon.

Ark also showed their proposed new logo based on Borromean Rings, which sounds like a event from one of Tolkein’s books but are actually a special type of 3 interlinked rings.

Ark have committed to consulting on the name and logo and if you want to let them know what you think you can send an email to

About Sean

Councillor for Addiscombe Ward, 1994-2006, re-elected in May 2010 along with Mark Watson and Patricia Hay-Justice. Since May 2014 Chair of Scrutiny. Lives locally in Addiscombe.
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  1. Writing as an old boy I find it somewhat of a Philistine idea to suggest changing the name of Oval School.
    It is nothing more than exercise of generic corporate rebranding not worthy of a first year design student.
    Such blatant commercialism has no place in schools. The rebuilding in the 1930s didn’t warrant an name change, not sure why you think the current changes do.

    The name Bayes is pretty much meaningless and irrelevant name for the local community especially as it contains no historical links.
    Connections to our past are important to developing and maintaining our sense of place, a sense of personal and local identity, and often add to our individual sense of purpose and belonging.

    Oval School was one of the first Schools built in the area after the Education Act in 1870. It was bombed by the Germans in their dastardly Zeppelins during the Great War. Olympian Paul Nihill went to the School. Changing the name will sever such direct connections to the past and weaken any sense of belonging and connectedness. Keeping it will enrich the sense of place, foster cross generation links and help with our understanding of our past. All vital attributes in providing a strong local community.

    Also is the word Academy really appropriate for Oval. An academy (Greek ????????) is an institution of higher learning not a primary & nursery School. It’s just a marketing ploy however well meaning and ill thought out.

    Changing the name is a silly idea.

  2. The email above for the school doesn’t seem to work.

  3. I don’t believe any school should be renamed just because it has ‘academy’ status and I don’t believe any school should carry a brand in this fashion. Leave the names and the badges alone. By all means let the signs outside and the headed notepaper say ‘Oval Primary School. An ARK Academy.’ if they need to get the brand in but leave the name and identity alone.

    I have yet to determine any connection whatsoever between Thomas Bayes and the local area so it seems a most peculiar choice of name and Bayes Theorem doesn’t seem terribly relevent to primary school education.

  4. I am an old boy of the school, and I would be very sad if the name Oval was lost. I have no objection to the ‘Academy’ route – if that is what is needed to restore standards then that is a good thing. When I attended, 1961-65, it probably was more like an Academy anyway. A lot of boys and girls in my year got very good results in the 11 plus (sorry if that is a bad word these days) and went to local grammar schools. Thank you Mrs Macdonald, 4A teacher, wherever you are these days…
    So ‘Oval Academy’ sounds good to me.

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